Those exercises are seeking to empower your body to regain sexual pleasure. Many survivors will be ‘checked out’ during sex and might get triggered as their abuse happened in intimate settings. We want to check you back in, in a safe way.
Dissociation comes as a mechanism to protect you from the bad feelings and emotions but it also numbs you to all the good ones too.
Survivors very often go 2 separate ways on the spectrum of frequency of having sex. One group believes that sex is all they are good for and abuse is all they know, that is why they might have sex very often and with multiple people. Their perception is – ‘People like me only because I give them sexual pleasure’. That is why many survivors of childhood sexual abuse will end up in the sex industry.
The other group will stray from sex altogether. Sexuality is too triggering for them and they would avoid it at all costs. Both of those behavioural mechanisms are completely normal ways of coping. However, they do not make up a healthy pattern for sex life. The good news is that you can readdress this pattern and change it.
Others may find refuge in addiction anger or other compulsive behaviours.
Let’s also not forget that survivors of sexual trauma are also men. It can be much harder for them to admit the abuse because of social stigma. This section is also for you!
First some reflection.
- Why heal sexual trauma? How will you know you’ve gotten what you want?
- What is safety to you? Safety vs. comfortability? When do you feel safe/unsafe?
- What is your internal sense of safety? Sensations? Resources which you use to feel safe?
- What biases do you hold? About the world and sex?
- Do you have any issues with sexual orientation?
- What do you consider appropriate for women or for men?
- Do you have social support? (friends and family)
- What strategies do you use to deal with your trauma? Spiritual, exercising, support groups, journal writing, etc?
- What do you think about monogamy vs non-monogamy?
- What do you think about anal sex?
- What do you think about abstinence? (from sex)
- What are your religious beliefs and how are they affecting your life and view on sexuality?
- What do you think about bondage?
- What do you think about S&M, crossdressing etc?
- Where did you learn about those ideas? Was it a ‘healthy’ vs. ‘unhealthy’ in sex for you?
Write down 3 experiences that had the most impact on your relationship with your body and sexual body, positive or negative, – media, sports, family, community, peers, religion
Pay attention to where in your body you feel aroused. You can put a mat on the floor for this exercise and lie down on it on your back with your knees bent. Notice sensations in your body, try to sink into your body and to the floor. Drop your breath to your belly and breath deeply, take 3 deep breaths before beginning the next part of the exercise. Now rock your pelvis forward and backward. Then try to tuck your pubic bone towards your belly button and then back towards the ground and arch your back. This looks and feels like sexual motion. Slowly continue to rock your pelvis back and forth. Do this for at least 3 minutes.
You may have all kinds of responses to this. You might feel sexually aroused. Great! You might notice that you get emotional or you that are noticing something else. Do not let this drive your attention away from the sensations in your body. Your emotional response to this exercise will give you information about what in you need to heal. You may cry or get angry. Let that come too.
Now match your breathing to the pelvic movement. Breath in as you arch your back and breathe out as you bring your pubic bone towards your belly button. You can try increasing the speed of rocking,
How does that change your response?
Get to a point where you feel slightly uncomfortable and stay with that feeling. This exercise will help you to increase your own tolerance for sexual energy and help you get in touch with your own desire you will also free up your pelvis and genitals allowing you to invite this sensation back to your body.
Pay attention to where in your body you feel aroused. You can put a mat on the floor for this exercise and lie down on it on your back with your knees bent. Notice sensations in your body, try to sink into your body and to the floor. Drop your breath to your belly and breath deeply, take 3 deep breaths before beginning the next part of the exercise.
Rub your hands together to bring some heat and energy. When you are ready place one hand on your genitals, and let the warmth radiate onto your pubic bone and your vulva/penis. You can imagine your genitals healing and keep breathing into your genitals. Use your imagination to connect breathing with your genitals. You can place your other hand on your heart or over your lower abdomen just above your pubic bone. Try this for 5 minutes per session.
YES MAYBE NO
What did you do in terms of sex up until now? What did you like? Dislike?
How much do you know about your sexuality?
What would you like to know/explore?
Create 3 columns YES, MAYBE, NO (fill them with different sexual activities/experiences accordingly to your likes/dislikes)
What column resembles your current sex life?
What would you like to try?
Motivation is the Key
What do you associate with sex? Make a list.
Sex is? (which points are inherent to abuse and which to normal consensual sex?)
What would be the worst possible outcome if you explored your sexuality?
What would be the best outcome?
Celibacy vs. Hypersexuality
Picking celibacy? Is it really a choice or need to mask and avoid triggers?
Celibacy can be a great idea for some survivors. Especially if you picked the way of frequent encounters because it is all you know and you are thinking that ‘this is all I am good for’. If you want to abstain from sex together with your partner talk about the exact period of time and what are you going to do instead of having sex? More emotional intimacy? Holding hands? Cuddling?
This could show you that you do not need to be sexual with people for them to love you. You are already lovable!
However, if you picked celibacy to cover up triggers and hide from emotions then it will not be a beneficial healing tactic.
List 3 times when you avoided sex or had compulsive sex
What emotions are you masking?
Nipple Liberation - also for men
Survivors express often a lack of sensation in their nipples.
Exercises for breasts – breathe into your breasts, feel them, put hands on them, feel the weight of the hands on them, create different pressure, harder/softer. Be mindful and present with them.
Check for any messages from your breaths as well. Are there any connections to emotions or thoughts?
Treat it like you would a mindfulness exercise.
Pubal cordial muscle PC – run from the pubic bone to the tailbone, surrounding the genitals in figure 8, you squeeze them to stop the urine, they involuntarily contract with orgasm.
You can train them by squeezing your vaginal and anus muscles inwards and then bare down 10 times (3x a day)
You can also do some Pelvic Breathing – exercise available in ‘Vaginal Pain Management & Enhancing Desire in Women’
You can do those exercises also if you are a man! Don’t feel left out 🙂
5min acceptance practice
Put your hands on different parts of your body that you do not appreciate while focusing on your breath. Bring acceptance with the warmth of your palms. Note the feelings underneath the negative chatter.
Resonate with that chatter and meet it with understanding and acceptance.
There could be many parts, emotions, and thoughts coming in and wanting to disperse acceptance. Welcome them but keep your accepting and appreciating presence with them.
What part of your body do you have a difficult relationship with?
Draw the impression of it
For more similar exercises go to – ‘Increasing Self-Esteem’ sestion
Solo Sensual Massage
Massage yourself with oil, changing pressure, you can lightly pull on your pubic hair or press on your pubic bone, feathers, or fabric? Massage, labia, breasts, try a vibrator on the vagina or penis, vulva, anus, perineum, testices read/watch erotica, create ambiance, grant yourself permission, and even if you get triggered give yourself credit for trying. Treat it as any other mindfulness exercise, and be present.
Also, write a masturbation discovery log
Is masturbation helping?
What are the underlying emotions?
Consent in Practice
Practice discovering which sensations in your body scream – consent or lack of consent?
Practice saying NO with a mirror
FILL IN with sexual activities and experiences:
Don’t want to
Write out the words you are not necessarily comfortable with – try practicing saying them by yourself or in front of a mirror
If you don’t like something, explore why
What are concerns and perceived benefits
Working with Your Triggers
Working with triggers can be tricky and might require thinking outside of the box. Anything could set you off. A sexual position? Weight of your partner on you? Smell? Type of a touch?
You can try adjustments during the encounter. Many survivors state that positions in which they can freely move around are better because during the abuse they were pinned down.
When that happens try the ‘STOP’ exercise available in ‘Mindfulness’ section of the blog
An option that you can consider after you do the reality check with the STOP exercise ask yourself if it would be possible to:
Continue to engage?
Stay connected? – change the another joint activity
Return? – retrace the step in the bedroom
Go into the trigger? – can be quite confronting so it’s best done after some inner work has already been performed
HOW TO GO INTO THE TRIGGER
- Keep breathing
- Observe the trigger – remember the time and year to ground yourself
- Shake off the trigger – move, voice, etc.
- Attend to your inner child during the process
Talking to Your Trigger:
Trigger: where is it in your body? Imagine it coming out of you
What does it need?
Sit where the trigger sits now – what does it feel like to be this creature? What do you need? What is the purpose of this?
Change the sits again. Imagine that the trigger is fed with acceptance, love, etc.
Sit quietly with the emptiness
Thank your trigger and yourself!
How to navigate the process:
1. Shows up as a sensation or a feeling – past or future
Are you open or closed to it?
- Feeling, (coming into the trigger)
- Fullness – Do you want to cry? Throw a tantrum? (build-up of emotions)
- Release – sweat, blush, screaming??
- Transformation & relief
You can also think of a safe word or a gesture. It should be an unusual signal, one that can be easily distinguished. People often use traffic colors: RED – stop; YELLOW – slow down; GREEN – go on.
Many survivors feel as though they are not good enough and not worthy of pleasure. Or that if they feel pleasure from sex now they must have wanted the abuse. Internally we often deny ourselves various experiences.
If you feel this way write yourself a permission slip.
If you feel the survivor’s guilt because you experienced group abuse perhaps you can ask your co-survivor to write one for you. Or you can try writing one from them. If you feel like you need permission from somebody else write a permission slip from them to you!
Acknowledge your abuse, even your perceived faults, and continue with acceptance and granting yourself permission and self-love.
Forgiveness is one of the most powerful tools for growth and self-enhancement.
The popular opinion is that forgiveness is a sign of weakness but nothing can be further from the truth. Forgiveness grants you peace of mind as you let go of the abuse that was done to you and the torment that you might be still inflicting on yourself through feelings of guilt and shame. When you forgive you separate yourself from your trauma and you are opened to new experiences.
If you want to forgive your perpetrator it could release you from all the negative feelings you are harboring.
Victims would also tend to direct their anger towards caregivers who knew or might have known about the abuse but did nothing to stop it. Many survivors would pick this direction over directing the anger at the perpetrator because it feels safer to do so.
But even more important is to forgive yourself. Many survivors will perceive themselves as guilty of some part of the abuse. Perhaps you thought that you were not good enough and that’s why it happened or you physically got aroused and had an orgasm. Perhaps you even asked for the abuse when you were a child.
Your body can spontaneously feel the arousal or even climax without a consensual sexual encounter.
Forgiving is not always coming to a conclusion that nothing was your fault. (even though this is the case in sexual abuse – those people chose to abuse you and if you were a child and they were an adult it was their responsibility to know better and to protect you)
Even if you asked for the abuse, even if you got aroused acknowledge it and forgive yourself for those perceived ‘faults’.
Exercises from: ‘Healing Sex: Body-Mind Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma’ by Staci Haines
Sexual trauma can be addressed with anxiety therapy and trauma therapy. Try also my art therapy trauma approaches.